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Saturday, February 9, 2013
Power-walking with the principal
At some schools, the principal’s retirement might go unnoticed. But Connie Ratcliffe’s departure from Patrick Henry High School at the end of this academic year will leave a void for her students.
They’re accustomed to seeing her in the hallways during the school day as well as at sporting events, band concerts, plays and debate competitions stretching late into the evening. Students enjoy a personal connection with Ratcliffe because she understands it’s part of her job to get to know them.
Ratcliffe has been a go-getter with Roanoke City Public Schools for 28 years. Before taking the helm at Patrick Henry six years ago, she served as a physical education teacher and coach, assistant principal at William Ruffner and principal at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
Finding a replacement won’t be easy, but Superintendent Rita Bishop wisely hopes to make a decision in time for the new principal to spend some time trailing Ratcliffe around the high school. Needless to say, anyone interested in the job had best own a pair of comfortable shoes.
The education of William Fleming’s basketball team
The adults at William Fleming High School offered a lame excuse as to why a basketball player who was failing his classes was not benched. They owe the team, and the academically struggling student, a huge apology. They let everyone down — the team by denying it a championship, and the student by denying his education comes first.
Had Fleming not been forced to forfeit two of its wins that occurred during the semester break, the young men would today be celebrating a Western Valley District championship.
But the Virginia High School League rules are clear: A student who does not pass a minimum of five classes in the first semester cannot play. To claim the rules were fuzzy enough for educated adults to think the time off between the first and second semesters was some foul-free zone is simply making up an excuse on the fly.
Besides, it isn’t just disappointing that Fleming would try to game the VHSL rules, but that it would falter so badly in its duty to the students. Surely, the principal and coaches should have known the student was having such difficulty with his studies.
Members of the team are at school to play ball, yes, but more importantly, they are there for an education. They got one all right.
Government nepotism always carries risk
The buzz around the Capitol is that a Senate budget amendment targeted Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. It would cut state funding to a constitutional office by 10 percent if the elected officer hires a family member contrary to local nepotism policies. Woody has hired a dozen.
We’re not convinced this is the best way to discourage nepotism, but nepotism is certainly an issue worth the General Assembly’s consideration. Southwest Virginia doesn’t even need to look at Richmond’s sheriff to see the sorts of problems that arise when people hire spouses, children, nieces and nephews.
Nepotism is not inherently bad. Sometimes a family member really is the best person for the job. He receives no special treatment and excels in the position. Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton is a prime example. He served as a deputy in the office for decades under his father.
Between the Overtons, however, is a prime example of how things can go terribly wrong. Former Sheriff Ewell Hunt hired his daughter, who soon became embroiled in all sorts of department drama and improper activities.
Even under the best circumstances, whispered speculation is inevitable about whether the new hire really would have gotten the job without the familial boost.
If the current budget amendment passes, it would behoove every locality to consider carefully its nepotism rules to ensure they protect government credibility and integrity.
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